Meta partners with Māori digital creators to Launch New AR Experience for APEC 2021

Mia Garlick, Director of Policy for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands – November 10, 2021


Like many global events over the past 18 months, governments, companies and  attendees have had to adapt to attending events virtually. APEC 2021 is no different.  With delegates and participating nations unable to experience Aotearoa New Zealand in-person this year,  we wanted to create an experience to allow delateges to learn more about  te ao Māori (the Māori world)  as if they were able to visit New Zealand in person.

To help bring this experience to delegates in their home countries, we wanted to create an immersive experience that delegates and our online community could engage with. Coinciding with the launch of APEC 2021, we’re delighted to announce our partnership with a coalition of Māori digital creatives and designers to develop a ground-breaking new augmented reality (AR)  experience to virtually experience a piece of te ao Māori. Available now to over one billion people on Instagram, Ngā Atua Māori (‘The Māori Gods’) is an innovative and interactive way of telling the Māori creation story.

The launch of Ngā Atua Māori  during the APEC CEO Summit highlights the importance of Indigenous economies and culture to the region — the APEC region is home to 70% of the world’s Indigenous communities.

Parenting with Māori creatives 

The Ngā Atua Māori experience was conceptualised and led by Lee Timutimu, CEO and Founder of Arataki Systems, in collaboration with Māui Studios, a Māori-owned creative agency based in Aotearoa.  To help with the development of the AR experience, the team worked with Singapore-based not-for-profit digital arts organisation, The MeshMinds Foundation, to develop the effect’s 3D characters and face effects, based on creative by Arataki Systems and Māui Studios.

Addressing the importance of this partnership and the creativity of telling this story , Lee Timutim said “it’s been a real pleasure partnering with Meta on this project. I was particularly impressed at how respectful and culturally aware the Meta team were right throughout the course of this project. It was incredibly important for us to maintain full control and creative license over our stories, and we were allowed the freedom to do so. In our experience, Indigenous stories can only be told by Indigenous peoples for reasons of authenticity, provenance, and mana (credibility). I’m also stoked that this project demonstrates how a small Indigenous owned tech company like ours, can successfully partner with a global tech giant like Meta! My sincere hope is that this will inspire other indigenous owned tech companies here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and around the globe, to do the same”.

The collaboration was conceptualised and developed entirely by Māori artists and creators with  Andrew Baker, Managing Director of Tika Learning, providing cultural advice and creative input throughout the development of the experience and narrative. Mr Baker shared that “this was an exciting project to be involved in with Lee and the Meta team. It’s brought together some of Aotearoa’s most talented storytellers to share a Māori creation story that is both ancient and new tech; personal and collaborative; Indigenous and globally relevant and about the past and a future full of potential. Ka mau te wehi whānau!”

About the Ngā Atua Māori AR Experience

The Ngā  Atua Māori AR experience brings to life 3D animated characters that represent five of the Māori gods, and tells their stories through an AR world effect. There is also a 2D AR face effect that enables users to also create their own Instagram Story inspired by the Māori creation story.

The effect starts by introducing Ranginui – the Sky Father and Papatūānuku – the Earth Mother. Through this story, the user is then introduced to five of the more commonly known Māori Gods – Tangaroa, God of oceans and seas; Rūaumoko, God of earthquakes and volcanoes; Tāwhirimātea, God of wind and weather; Tūmatauenga, God of war; and Tāne; God of forests and birds. These represent five of the more than 70 Gods in Māori storytelling.

The 3D animations of the five Māori Gods featured were voiced by (Stacey Morrison (narrator); Scotty Morrison (the voice of Tāne); Matai Smith (the voice of Tangaroa); Piripi Taylor (the voice of Tūmatauenga); Chey Milne, the voice of Tāwhirimātea; and Tamati Waaka (the voice of Rūaumoko). The Ngā Atua Māori AR experience was based entirely on the research and writings of Tamati Waaka, who is a published author in his own right and a highly respected te reo & tikanga expert.

Drawing on APEC’s focus around Indigenous economy this year, we are honoured to support the Māori creative team behind this new AR experience, themselves highlighting the diversity of the Māori economy in the high tech and digital sector. Even if you can’t visit Aotearoa in-person, this technology allows over one billion people on Instagram the chance to immerse themselves in the Māori creation story.

Further APEC 2021 support

The AR experience adds on to the further work Meta is doing in support of APEC this year, including to sponsor more than 150 small businesses from APEC countries to attend the 2021 CEO Summit event.

As we develop new technologies on the road to the Metaverse, it’s our priority to continue investing in Indigenous digital skills and inclusive opportunities to expand these vibrant local creator communities.

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